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Gunbattles break out in Tunisian capital

Major gunbattles erupted in Tunis and elsewhere on Sunday as authorities struggled to restore order and the world waited to see if the North African nation would continue its first steps away from autocratic rule.

Police arrested dozens of people, including the top presidential security chief, as tensions appeared to mount between Tunisians buoyant over Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's departure and loyalists in danger of losing major perks.

There were cheers and smiles in much of Tunis, the capital, as residents tore down the massive portraits of Ben Alithat were omnipresent during his 23-year reign.

Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi said on state TV that a new national unity government will "most certainly" be announced today.

There are three legal opposition parties that could be included in the government Ghannouchi has been directed to form by the interim president, Fouad Mebazaa. Negotiations are advanced, Ghannouchi said Sunday night.

Worries among Tunisians, however, grew with the violence and worsening shortages of essentials such as milk, bread and fresh fish.

A gunbattle broke out around the presidential palace late Sunday afternoon in Carthage on the Mediterranean shore, about 10 miles north of Tunis. The army and members of the newly appointed presidential guard fought off attacks from militias loyal to Ben Ali, said a member of the new presidential guard. Helicopters were surveying the zone.

Residents of Carthage -- a center of power in ancient times but now a Tunis suburb popular with tourists -- said they have barricaded themselves inside their homes amid the shooting.

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